ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 30, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 44
Funday Times

Fauna in Udawalawe National Park

The second set of stamps in the series 'National Parks of Sri Lanka' issued on October 31, 2007, features the Udawalawe National Park.

It is situated in a dry and intermediate zone bound by the Moneragala District in the Uva Province and the Ratnapura District in the Sabaragamuwa Province. Uda Walawe, 30,821 hectares in extent, is a very popular National Park and has attracted large crowds since it opened on June 30, 1972.

Situated 165 km from Colombo, the entrance to the Park is near the 11th mile post on the Thimbolketiya/Thanamal- wila highway. Rich in fauna, the Park provides shelter to many animal species that are threatened and deprived of their natural habitats due to the development projects in the area. Elephants, deer, sambur, wild boar, wild buffalo, serpents, reptiles, butterflies, amphibians and birds can be seen a plenty in Udawalawe.

Four species have been featured in the set of stamps. In the Rs. 5 stamp is a herd of water buffaloes.

The wild water buffalo ('Bubalus bubalis') is a large and powerful animal. Although the colour of the body is ash in dry conditions, it darkens to almost brownish black when the skin is wet. The male is larger than the female, a mature male being about five feet in height. It generally carries much longer and heavier horns. Living in herds, the leader is a mature male. Wanting to be in water most of time, it spends much of the time wallowing in mud holes and shallow pools. Mainly a grazer, it feeds in the morning and evening. Its life span is around 25 to 29 years.

The Sri Lankan elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) seen in the Rs. 15 stamp belongs to the order Proboscidae, comprising of the largest of all living terrestrial mammals. The adult male which is about nine feet six inches tall, is larger than the female. They are herbivores. They eat grasses, leaves, bark and fruit. Feeding is generally done early morning and afternoon. They rest in mid– day. The period of gestation is around 23 months. An elephant's life span is about 60 years.

The Ceylon Ruddy Mongoose (Herpestes smithil) featured in the Rs. 40 stamp is normally seen either alone or as a couple. Ash brown in colour, it can be spotted even from a distance from its characteristic habit of carrying its tail with the black tip curved upwards. It feeds on birds, small mammals and reptiles. Thus it is a carnivore.

In the Rs. 45 stamp is the Grey Langur (Semnopithecus entellus) which belongs to the order Primates and class Mammalia. Grey in colour with a blackface, they are large and terrestrial. Found mostly in the dry zone, they feed on leaves, fruit, seeds and flowers. They live in medium to large groups, sleeping on branches during the night, usually with one dominant male. The female gives birth to one offspring.

A feature of the Udawalawe Park is the Elephant Transit Home where shelter, food and security are provided for the wounded, destitute or motherless baby elephants until they are independent and able to fend for themselves in the jungle. The Department of Wildlife Conservation opened the Home in October 1995. The Home is featured in one of the two souvenir sheets released with the stamps. The other features Weheragalla in the Udawalawe Park.

The first set of stamps in the National Parks series featured the barking deer, the sea eagle, the leopard and the sloth bear in the Wilpattu Park. (Stamp Corner – May 26, 2006)

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